Kid Nation
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Kid Nation

Kid Nation
Kid Nation Logo.jpg
Directed byJack Cannon
Presented byJonathan Karsh
StarringSee Participants below
Composer(s)Jeff Lippencott and Mark T. Williams, Ah2 Music
Country of originUnited States
Original English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13
Executive Tom Forman
Production location(s)Bonanza City, New Mexico
Running time60 minutes
Production Forman Productions
Endemol USA
DistributorEndemol Shine North America
Original networkCBS
Original releaseSeptember 19 -
December 12, 2007 (2007-12-12)
External links

Kid Nation was an American reality television show hosted by Jonathan Karsh that premiered on the CBS network on September 19, 2007 created by Tom Forman Productions and Endemol USA. The program was originally scheduled to air in mid-2007.[1]

In the show, the children try to create a functioning society in the town, including setting up a government system with minimal adult help and supervision.[2]

On May 14, 2008, CBS officially canceled the series after one season.[3]


The show, featuring 40 children aged 8 to 15, was filmed on location at the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, a privately owned town built on the ruins of Bonanza City, New Mexico, 8 miles south of Santa Fe.[4][5]

The show stresses the difficulty in creating a viable society. While each child received $5,000 for their involvement, Gold Stars valued at $20,000 and $50,000 were awarded to select outstanding participants as decided by the elected Town Council.[6]

Speaking before an audience of television reviewers, producer Tom Forman acknowledged that Kid Nation would inevitably share some elements with William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, which depicted planewrecked children without adult supervision. Adults were present off-camera during production, including cameramen, producers, a medic, and a child psychologist, although all interacted with the children as little as possible. Participants also missed a month of school, but Forman suggested that such real-world tasks as preparing a group breakfast, doing physical chores like fetching water, and making group decisions constituted an educational experience in its own right. Forman said that all participants were cleared by a team of psychologists and any child could choose to go home at any time, which three did.[2]


No. Episode Title Days Airdate Upper-Class Merchants Cooks Laborers Town Bonus Gold Star Exits
1 "I'm Trying to be a Leader Here!"[7] 1-4 September 19 Red Blue Yellow Green Seven Outhouses Sophia Jimmy
2 "To Kill or Not to Kill"[8] 5-7 September 26 Blue Red Yellow Green None (Task Failed) Michael None
3 "Deal with It!"[9] 8-10 October 3 Yellow Blue Green Red Microwave & Cocoa Mallory None
4 "Bless Us and Keep Us Safe"[10] 11-13 October 10 Blue Red Yellow Green Religious Books Morgan Cody
5 "Viva La Revolución!"[11] 14-16 October 17 Yellow Green Red Blue Oral Hygiene Products Greg None
6 "Bonanza Is Disgusting"[12] 17-19 October 24 Red Green Yellow Blue Fruits & Vegetables DK None
7 "The Root of All Evil"[13] 20-22 October 31 Blue Yellow Green Red New Clothes & Free Laundry Nathan None
8 "Starved for Entertainment"[14] 23-25 November 7 Green Blue Red Yellow None (Task Failed) Kennedy None
9 "Not Even Close to Fair"[15] 26-28 November 14 Blue Yellow Green Red None (Task Failed) Blaine Randi
10 "Let Me Talk!"[16] 29-31 November 21 Blue Green Yellow Red Letters From Home Laurel None
11 "I Just Like the Recess Part"[17] 32-34 November 28 Green Blue Yellow Red Town Arcade Hunter None
12 "Where's Bonanza, Dude?"[18] 35-37 December 5 Green Red Blue Yellow Hot Air Balloon Ride Alex None
13 "We've All Decided to Go Mad!"[19] 38-40 December 12 No District Assignments Three Gold Stars worth $50,000 Zach
All (final episode)
^A These gold stars were worth $50,000 and were awarded at the final town hall meeting.


The participants of Kid Nation consist of 40 kids, whose ages ranged from 8 to 15.[20] The following table lists each child's district color (including change if applicable),[21] age at the onset of the show, home state, the terms they held in Town Council, the day they received a gold star, when they left Bonanza City and any applicable notes.[22][failed verification]

1 2 Name Age State Town Council Gold Star Exit Note(s)
B B Alex 9 Nevada 37Day 37 40
B B Anjay 12 Texas Days 1-29 41 40
B Y Blaine 14 Florida Days 29-40 28Day 28 40 Changed districts in episode 9
Y Y Brett 11 Minnesota 41 40
G G Campbell 10 Georgia 41 40
Y N/A Cody 9 Ohio 41 13 Day 13
Y Y Colton 11 Nevada 41 40
R R Divad 11 Georgia 41 40
R R DK 14 Illinois Days 29-40 19Day 19 40
R B Emilie 9 Nevada 41 40 Changed districts in episode 9
G G Eric 14 New Jersey 41 40
B B Gianna 10 Illinois 41 40
B B Greg 15 Nevada Days 29-40 16Day 16 40 Oldest participant
R R Guylan 11 Massachusetts Days 16-29 41 40
G G Hunter 12 Georgia 34Day 34 40
R R Jared 11 Georgia 41 40
R R Jasmine 11 Georgia 41 40
G N/A Jimmy 8 New Hampshire 41 04Day 4 Youngest participant
Y Y Kelsey 11 Pennsylvania 41 40
G G Kennedy 12 Kentucky 25Day 25 40
G G Laurel 12 Massachusetts Days 1-29 31Day 31 40
Y Y Leila 9 North Carolina 41 40
R R Madison 11 Texas 41 40
R R Maggie 14 Minnesota 41 40
B B Mallory 8 Indiana 10Day 10 40 9th birthday during episode 3
Olivia's sister
R R Markelle 12 Georgia 41 40
G G Michael 14 Washington Days 29-40 07Day 7 40 15th birthday during episode 11
B B Migl? 13 Illinois 40Day 403 40
R R Mike 11 Washington Days 1-16 41 40
G G Morgan 12 Indiana 13Day 13
Day 403
B B Natasha 13 Florida 41 40
B R Nathan 11 Illinois 22Day 22 40 Changed districts in episode 9
B B Olivia 12 Indiana 41 40 Mallory's sister
Y Y Pharaoh 12 Pennsylvania 41 40
Y N/A Randi 11 Nevada 41 28 Day 28 Turns 12 (somewhere between episode 5 and 9)
G G Savannah 10 Kentucky 41 40
G G Sophia 14 Florida 04Day 4
Day 403
40 Appointed town sheriff in episode 11
Y Y Sophie 10 Washington 41 40
Y Y Taylor 10 Georgia Days 1-16 41 40 11th birthday during episode 7
Y Y Zach 10 Florida Days 16-29 39Day 39 40
^1 Original district
^2 Final district color or black, with N/A (Not Applicable) if participant left the show
^3 These gold stars were worth $50,000 (equivalent to $62,000 in 2019) and were awarded at the final town hall meeting.



Ahead of its premiere, the show proved to be the most controversial of the upcoming fall 2007 season, even though the only actual footage seen was a four-minute promo running on television and the Web.[23] In previewing the series, CBS eschewed television critics, instead holding screenings at schools in at least seven large cities.[24]Variety columnist Brian Lowry wrote that "Kid Nation is only the latest program to use kids as fodder for fun and profit, which doesn't make the trend any less disturbing."[25] William Coleman, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, argued that the younger children, ages 8 to 12, might not be able to deal with the stress, yet could be enticed to participate by the potential fame or be pressured to do so by a parent.[26]

Los Angeles Times reporter Maria Elena Fernandez interviewed four of the children, who told her they had worked harder than they ever had in their lives but would willingly repeat the experience. They said the most challenging aspect was getting used to being filmed constantly.


After the show's premiere, many television critics wrote negative reviews, with Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd a notable exception.[27] Reviewing the first episode, Washington Post columnist Tom Shales suggested that the show is "not so much an exercise in socialization as the indoctrination of children into a consumer culture". Shales pointed out that the kids' decisions included buying root beer at the saloon with "real money", but not hiring or being hired--as their money was "parceled out to them according to their predetermined stations in life."[28]

By the third episode, some advertisers that had shied away from Kid Nation due to its initial controversy had begun to purchase time.[29]

Reflecting near the end of the season, Los Angeles Times writer Maria Elena Fernandez, who had reported extensively on Kid Nation, wrote that neither the show's pre-premiere promises nor controversies quite congealed: the children were never as autonomous or self-reliant as the publicity indicated and the threatened legal investigations by the state of New Mexico never took off.[30] As the series concluded, low ratings had cast doubt on whether CBS would renew the show. Brad Adgate, an analyst with Horizon Media, said the chances were not good unless a writers' strike, ongoing at the time of the season finale, increased demand for more reality shows.[31]

Time magazine's James Poniewozik named it one of the Top 10 New TV Series of 2007, ranking it at #10.[32]

It was nominated for Best Family Television Reality Show, Game Show or Documentary at the 29th Annual Young Artist Awards.[33]

U.S. Nielsen ratings

No. Episode Viewers (millions) Households Adults 18-49
1 "I'm Trying to Be a Leader Here!" 9.07 5.8/10 3.0/9[34]
2 "To Kill or Not to Kill" 7.6 4.8/8 2.8/8[35]
3 "Deal With It!" 7.51 4.7/8 2.4/7[36]
4 "Bless Us and Keep Us Safe" 7.01 4.3/7 2.0/6[37]
5 "Viva La Revolucion!" 7.41 4.7/8 2.4/7[38]
6 "Bonanza is Disgusting" 8.03 5.1/8 2.5/7[39]
7 "The Root of All Evil" 6.89 4.4/8 2.0/7[40]
8 "Starved for Entertainment" 7.16 4.5/7 2.1/6[41]
9 "Not Even Close to Fair" 7.53 4.7/8 2.4/7[42]
10 "Let Me Talk!" 6.88 4.3/7 2.0/6[43]
11 "I Just Like the Recess Part" 7.29 4.5/7 2.1/6[44]
12 "Where's Bonanza, Dude?" 7.2 4.5/7 2.2/6[45]
13 "We've All Decided to Go Mad!" 7.35 4.5/7 2.2/6[46]

Treatment of children and broader legal implications

Kid Nation raised questions about the appropriate minimum age of participants in reality shows. As with most other reality shows, the children were signed on contracts requiring them to be available for filming for 24 hours a day through the 40-day filming period.[47] The federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 normally limits the number of hours that children can work in a day, but has exemptions for those involved in film and television production, leaving it to states to regulate those further.[48] At the time of filming, New Mexico had passed a law to limit children's participate in film and television productions to nine hours a day while Kid Nation was filming, but it did not come into enforcement until a month after filming completed.[47] However, New Mexico had other general child-labor provisions that limited children under 14 to a maximum number of hours per week or day unless previously cleared with the state, which CBS had not appeared to have obtained.[47] Adults were on site with the children but the nature of how the adults supervised the children made it appear that the children were unlawfully engaged in labor under New Mexico law, according to the state.[47] The producers challenged these claims by declaring the set a summer camp rather than a place of employment.[4] This was further questioned by the state, as there are additional rules related to camp operations set by the state that were not followed by production,[47]. The ostensible loopholes production had claimed have since been closed.[4]

Health issues were also raised. Parents were required to sign a 22-page waiver that disavowed any responsibility on CBS or production for harm from any medical care given to the children.[47] Forman, ten years after the show's airing, stated that the children were never in any real danger with the amount of adult supervision present, but that the length and terms of the waiver were meant to try to cover all the possible ways they believed that injury could possibly befall the children during product at that location.[49] After 11-year-old Divad Miles was burned when grease splattered onto her face while cooking a meal, her mother, Janis Miles, filed a complaint in June calling for an investigation into "abusive acts to minors and possible violations of child labor laws." The claim was investigated by Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, which found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the production company.[4][50][51] Other investigative efforts by the state of New Mexico into the Kid Nation production were later dropped. The state's Attorney General's Office cited the lack of formal complaint or request for inquiry from any state agency. The state's Department of Workforce Solutions dropped its charge that the producers had denied inspectors access to the set and said it had no plans to investigate.[30]

The Kid Nation production also raised questions about whether reality show participants are more like subjects in a documentary or working actors. The latter are covered by union rules that govern everything from working hours to compensation.[52] This debate over participant status could be seen in an American Federation of Television and Radio Artists investigation over whether its AFTRA National Code of Fair Practices for Network Television Broadcasting was violated. The investigation went forward even though on reality shows, the Network Code generally covers professional performers, but not the participants.[53] Some parents on hand for the final day of filming accused the producers of feeding children lines, re-casting dialogue and repeating scenes, all of which suggested that the children functioned as actors. Producer Tom Forman said that the parents were observing routine "pickups" for scenes that might have been missed because of technical difficulties.[54]

CBS defended the production's conduct as both legal and ethical, including the response to minor injuries on the set. The network characterized some early allegations as irresponsible, exaggerated or false.[30][53]

As the children that participated became adults, they began to discuss the show's events in various media outlets, with stories of various praise and concern of the show's production. One of the first such was from Michael who offered a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" in 2014, noting that the show had set out to try to fill various stereotypes with casting. The A.V. Club spoke to several of the participants in 2020, including Laurel, Anjay, and Olivia, confirming some of the stories, and that much of the show as presented on television was more dramatized than actually occurred, setting up certain children like Olivia as a "stock villain", despite this not being the case behind the cameras.[55] There had been a highly-publicized story about one child drinking bleach;[56] Anjay explained in this report that this had been a result of a bottle of bleach being mistaken for a bottle of seltzer water that they had for flavoring drinks in the town store, but medical staff were there immediately to treat the affected child who was returned to the set shortly afterward.[55] Anjay stated that there were over 200 adults near the set at any time, and while he did not consider the show in any way abusive, he did state that "it was definitely a lot more exploitative than I remember it being back then" on watching it as an adult.[55]YouTuber JonTron (Jon Jafari) interviewed Jimmy, the first child to leave the game, in 2020. Jimmy criticized the harsh conditions that the production crew placed upon the children, such as making them cook their own food and wash their own dishes, the poor sanitary conditions (one outhouse for 40 kids and no showers until the first showdown) and the poor sleeping conditions. He also confirmed that on two separate occasions, ambulances were called because one child accidentally consumed bleach from an improperly rinsed container, and the aforementioned Divad Miles burned her face with grease while cooking.[57]

Forman has stated that he would like to return to Kid Nation not so much to produce a sequel, given the amount of difficulty it would take to produce such a work, but more as a "where are they now" type program to follow where the cast has since become as adults.[49]

See also


  1. ^ Adalian, Josef (May 15, 2007). "Kids to rule reality on CBS". Variety. Archived from the original on November 6, 2007. Retrieved 2007.
  2. ^ a b Fernandez, Maria Elena (August 17, 2007). "Is child exploitation legal in 'Kid Nation'?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007.
  3. ^ Kimball, Trevor (May 14, 2008). "CBS Announces Their 2008-09 Schedule. Who's Been Cancelled?". TV Series Finale. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Hibberd, James (July 15, 2007). "The Founding of 'Kid Nation'". TV Week. Crain Communications. Archived from the original on September 16, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  5. ^ "About Us". Bonanza Creek Ranch. Retrieved 2019.
  6. ^ Wyatt, Edward (August 22, 2007). "CBS Was Warned on 'Kid Nation,' Documents Show". New York Times. Retrieved 2007.
  7. ^ "Episode 101: Welcome to Bonanza City, New Mexico". CBS. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ "Episode 102: Bless Us and Keep Us Safe". CBS. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  9. ^ "Episode 103: Bless Us and Keep Us Safe". CBS. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  10. ^ "Episode 104: Viva La Revolución". CBS. Archived from the original on October 24, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ "Episode 105: Viva La Revolución". CBS. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  12. ^ "Episode 106: Bonanza is Disgusting!". CBS. Archived from the original on October 28, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  13. ^ "Episode 107: The Root of All Evil". CBS. Archived from the original on November 3, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  14. ^ "Episode 108: Starved for Entertainment". CBS. Archived from the original on November 10, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  15. ^ "Episode 109: Not Even Close to Fair". CBS. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  16. ^ "Episode 110: Let Me Talk!". CBS. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ "Episode 111: I Just Like the Recess Part". CBS. Archived from the original on December 1, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  18. ^ "Episode 112: Where's Bonanza, Dude?". CBS. Archived from the original on December 8, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  19. ^ "Episode 113: We've All Decided to go Mad!". CBS. Archived from the original on December 15, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  20. ^ TWOP. "Kid Nation - I'm Trying to be a Leader Here". Yahoo! TV. Archived from the original on June 15, 2011. Retrieved 2019.
  21. ^ "Progress Report". CBS. Archived from the original on October 11, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  22. ^ "Check out the bios created & designed by the Kids". CBS. Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved 2019.
  23. ^ Fernandez, Maria Elena (August 28, 2007). "Is CBS reality show 'Kid Nation' just child's play?". SEEdebate. Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved 2019.
  24. ^ Wyatt, Edward (September 19, 2007). "CBS Screens 'Kid Nation' at Schools". New York Times. Retrieved 2019.
  25. ^ Lowry, Brian (May 25, 2007). "The kids aren't all right". Variety. Archived from the original on February 19, 2009. Retrieved 2019.
  26. ^ Montagne, Renee (August 3, 2007). "'Kid Nation' Raises Controversy Ahead of Air". NPR. Retrieved 2019.
  27. ^ ""Kid Nation" Debuts With Good, Not Great, Ratings And Reviews". HuffPost. March 28, 2008. Retrieved 2019.
  28. ^ Shales, Tom (September 20, 2007). "'Kid Nation': Grow Up, CBS!". Shales on TV. Washington Post. Retrieved 2019.
  29. ^ Wyatt, Edward (October 8, 2007). "'Kid Nation' Slips in Viewers but Gains in Advertisers". New York Times. Retrieved 2019.
  30. ^ a b c Fernandez, Maria Elena (November 30, 2007). "Lost chances in 'Kid Nation'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 1, 2007. Retrieved 2019.
  31. ^ Keveney, Bill (December 11, 2007). "'Kid Nation' faces an uncertain future after lackluster run". USA Today. Retrieved 2019.
  32. ^ Poniewozik, James (December 9, 2007). "Top 10 New TV Series". TIME. Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ "29th Annual Young Artist Awards - Nominations / Special Awards". Young Artist Awards. 2008. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2019.
  34. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (September 20, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, September 19, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  35. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (September 27, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, September 26, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  36. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (October 6, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, October 3, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  37. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (October 11, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, October 10, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  38. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (October 18, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, October 17, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  39. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (October 25, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, October 24, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  40. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (November 1, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, October 31, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  41. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (November 8, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, November 7, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  42. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (November 15, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, November 14, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  43. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (November 23, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, November 21, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  44. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (November 29, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, November 28, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  45. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (December 6, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, December 5, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  46. ^ Calabria, Rosario T. (December 14, 2007). "Broadcast TV Ratings for Wednesday, December 12, 2007". Your Entertainment Now. Retrieved 2019.
  47. ^ a b c d e f Wyatt, Edward (August 25, 2007). "'Kid Nation' Lesson: Be Careful What You Pitch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020.
  48. ^ Greenberg, Adam P. (2008). "Reality's Kids: Are Children Who Participate on Reality Television Shows Covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act". Southern California Law Review. 82: 585.
  49. ^ a b Turchiano, Danielle (September 18, 2017). "'Kid Nation' Boss Reflects on 'Controversial and Groundbreaking' Reality Series". Variety. Retrieved 2020.
  50. ^ Fern, Maria Elena; Ez (August 22, 2007). "CBS addresses 'Kid Nation' controversies". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Retrieved 2019.
  51. ^ Wyatt, Edward (August 18, 2007). "A CBS Reality Show Draws a Claim of Possible Child Abuse". New York Times. Retrieved 2019.
  52. ^ Fernandez, Maria Elena (August 29, 2007). "'Kid Nation' puts Hollywood labor tension into sharp focus". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019.
  53. ^ a b Fernandez, Maria Elena (August 26, 2007). "'Kid Nation's' current reality: investigations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019.
  54. ^ Fernandez, Maria Elena (August 31, 2007). "'Kid Nation' parents speak out". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019.
  55. ^ a b c ElGenaidi, Deena (March 10, 2020). "Bonanza City, revisited: The pioneers of Kid Nation remember the controversial reality show". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2020.
  56. ^ "'Kid Nation' draws complaints from one parent". Associated Press. 2013.
  57. ^ JonTron (May 19, 2020). "Jimmy Tells All (Kid Nation Exclusive) - JonTron". YouTube. Retrieved 2020.

External links

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